How to Motivate Employees (According to 35+ Experts)

Nearly everyone can benefit from a bit of motivation once in a while.

When it comes to motivating employees, however, it can be tricky because what works for one person might not work for another.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to keep your team excited and motivated. So what’s the best approach to do that?

According to experts, here are ways you can do to motivate employees.

Kelly McDonald

Speaker and Business Owner | Author, “How to Work With and Lead People Not Like You

According to research, 79% of people who leave their jobs cite underappreciation as a factor. 

In this competitive work environment, where employers are scrambling to find new workers and fill positions, it’s critical to retain your employees and keep them motivated and committed.

Here are three creative tips for motivating employees: 

Provide experiences, not just cash

While everyone likes to receive a cash bonus as recognition for good work, there are other ways to reward employees that are more personal and meaningful

Providing experiences customized to employees’ interests shows that you “see them” and are paying attention to their lives outside of work. 

One of my clients shared a story about a retail territory manager who spent three days on the road traveling with a district manager. They met with multiple stores and had lots of windshield time in the car as they crossed the district. 

They started talking about hobbies and interests, and my client shared that she’d always wanted to try rock climbing. It was just a passing comment, but the territory manager mentally filed it away. 

At the end of the year, when performance bonuses were distributed, the territory manager gave her not only a check but also a package of eight rock climbing lessons. 

The employee later said, “I can’t even remember what I spent my bonus on, but I sure remember the rock climbing classes. It made me feel so good. It was just a comment I’d made six months ago, but my boss remembered – and acted on it.” 

Conduct and participate in “appreciation circles”

The appreciation circle is a simple concept and one that costs nothing. Every 30 or 60 days, have your team stand in a circle and choose a starting member. As a leader, you are a good choice to start the ball rolling.

The starter then shares something they appreciate about the person to their right in the circle. This continues around the circle (then reverse), so everyone shares appreciation on two fronts.

While feedback and appreciation from managers and supervisors are always wonderful to hear, there is something special about hearing appreciation from coworkers and team members

It’s not simply a feel-good exercise; it often illuminates something important that one worker does that others see and value. 

For example, a friend of mine participated in an appreciation circle, and one team member with whom she had a difficult relationship told her that she appreciated her passion.

The coworker said, “While we don’t always agree and see eye to eye on things, I appreciate your passion and dedication to making things better.” That one sentence changed their relationship! 

After my friend heard that, their relationship became less combative and more collaborative because she’d heard that her colleague valued her. This simple exercise is a terrific way to ensure that everyone on the team understands and knows they’re valued and why

Have an annual company-wide day off

A day off from work is excellent but usually comes with a price—digging out from all the work and emails the next day. 

A global company with thousands of employees worldwide created “Z Day“—a day when the company was closed everywhere. 

In 2021 they tried this for the first time and chose November 8th. The company was officially closed for the day, and every employee could spend the day as they wished. 

The company encouraged employees to share how they spent their day, and the posts (both internally within their system and externally on social media) were heartwarming

  • Some people spend the day doing holiday shopping. 
  • Others took their kids sledding. 
  • One employee said they love to bake bread but never had the time. 
  • They baked a dozen loaves that day to give to friends and neighbors. 
  • Others volunteered at local organizations. 
  • Many said they simply slept in, had breakfast with their kids, and then watched movies all day. 
  • Several said they called family members and had long catch-up calls that they’d wanted to find time for. 

The best part about Z Day is that no one returned to a flood of emails and tasks because the entire company was closed for the day. 

The employees were energized and enthusiastic about the day off, making Z Day an annual event. While this may be a challenge for many organizations, if a global company can pull it off, it may be possible for your organization to do so as well. 

Diane Lang, MA, PPC

Diane Lang

Coach, Speaker, and Educator | Author, “Mindfully Happy: Waking up to Life

Bring mindfulness and compassion into the workplace

Why mindfulness and compassion in the workplace? If we all could show a little more concern for others and be of help/service to others, we could make the workplace a place of love instead of fear. A place where employees want to come to, where they feel appreciated. 

Related: 18 Best Mindfulness Books

When we go to work from a place of fear—a fear of being fired, constantly criticized, stressed out, or not fitting in, we don’t do our job. 

Our creativity is covered by fear, our motivation is clouded by fear, and what you get is a workplace that runs on fear, and it shows by the following: 

  • turnover rate, 
  • high absenteeism,
  • and overall work satisfaction.

The Conference Board reports that 53% of Americans are unhappy in the workplace. Half of the workforce isn’t happy, a sad statistic, but there are things we can do to help our employees to be happier, healthier, and more productive.

We have choices as managers and leaders to run our companies with: 

  • compassion
  • kindness
  • empathy 

These choices can make a huge difference in a company.

Related: Compassion vs Empathy vs Sympathy. What’s the Difference?

Show every employee kindness through caring and respect 

How? 

  • Say “hi” to each employee using their name
  • Ask how they are and mean it
  • Find out what each employee’s interests are
  • Ask about their family and ask about them

Teach managers that emotions are signs of strength, not weakness

Teach each manager that emotions such as: 

  • empathy
  • kindness 
  • respect
  • caring

are signs of strength, not weakness. 

Related: 30+ Reasons Why Kindness Is Important

Let’s change our thought process on kindness. A soft skill doesn’t mean it’s a sign of weakness; instead, these soft skills will bring up your rates of productivity and creativity in the workplace. 

Soft skills are impactful. Soft skills are the foundation for emotional intelligence in the workplace. Does that sound like a sign of weakness in an organization?

With empathy and compassion comes cooperation and working together. These types of emotions allow people to have better interpersonal skills and perform better in groups. 

Socialization is one of the top factors of happiness. When we are more social at work and enjoy each other’s company, we have better socialization at work. Do I need to say more?

Happy employees = Happy companies

Be a compassionate and caring leader

A compassionate, kind leader will communicate openly and honestly with their employees. Their constructive criticism comes from a place of love and learning. This helps employees learn from their mistakes and try harder.

A compassionate, caring leader is the one who: 

  • expresses their emotions, 
  • leads by example, 
  • and decreases judgment and criticism of others.

Related: Top 7 Leading Traits of Good Leaders

A compassionate and mindful leader will share constructive criticism with their employees and go over all the good the employee has added to their company. When an employee feels noticed and appreciated, they will work harder. 

Have conversations with your employees

Know their family and interests—ask about: 

  • How are they? 
  • What did they do over the weekend or holiday? 
  • How are their families

Or a small gesture like delivering a cup of coffee or tea to a fellow employee.

It’s just about the basics: showing your employees you care. It’s simple and effective.

Dez Blanchfield

Dez Blanchfield

Founder and CEO, Elnion

Understand your employees’ desires and regularly communicate with them

The challenge of motivating employees has become increasingly challenging as organizations face new demands from employees old and new. 

These include as many as five generations of age bracket working in some organizations as retirement ages are pushed up by either governments or the need to continue to work if personal savings.

Super annulation or pensions fail to meet the costs of living, as well as a significant shift in work-life balance for younger generations starting with millennials. 

Related: Why Is Work Life Balance so Important in Today’s World?

Where the realization that home ownership was not something they could either afford or desired, their focus shifted to doing things their parents may not have undertaken, such as: 

  • being a digital nomad, 
  • or flexible working models such as job sharing.

Other recent impacts currently include: 

  • continued issues with supply chains as various forms of goods and services, 
  • increasing impacts of economic collapse, 
  • inequity and inequality of income, 
  • through to concern around the impact of geopolitical fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine 
  • and, of course, the continuing effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which shows no signs of “going away.

The age-old leaver of either bonus payments or salary increases no longer works. 

Human resource departments are facing the reality of the loss of leverage of those basic tools one gave them, as the great resignation sees employees not just resigning in droves but simply not turning up on Monday, without notice.

They are simply walking away more and more, not even bothering service notice or resigning—they just don’t bother turning up again, often out of sheer exasperation with their working conditions.

Finally, employers are finding their desire to return staff to office spaces, which have cost a great deal to maintain, be it through: 

  • rents, 
  • long-term leases, 
  • or sunk costs in real estate, 

which for many organizations were left empty through 2020.

Efforts in 2021 were stalled when yet another major variant of COVID-19 arrived in the form of Omicron. 

Then staff realized in 2022 that they had worked sixteen-hour days, sometimes six-day weeks, to keep organizations in business at no benefit to them while at the same time: 

  • homeschooling children, 
  • supporting extended family members, 
  • and having to remain physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy themselves. 

Global brands such as Apple have now attempted to strong-arm their staff to return to the office, only to find the backlash so great they have had to abandon what they should have realized were poorly thought out plans to allow staff to work from home indefinitely

Employees have realized that if, for two and a half years now, they have been able to work and function productively to keep the organizations they work for in business, there is no reasonable or rational reason they should return to: 

  • long commutes back to either cubicle life 
  • or the horrible open workspace office environments of old

when they have, for a couple of years now, had a commute from the kitchen to the end of a hallway to a workspace at home. 

They have had much more time to spend with their children and partners and more time to themselves, saving both time and money. 

These are the reality employers face right now, and too many are either struggling to understand or grasp these issues or are either unaware of them or simply refuse to accept them.

Such results to: 

  • high churn rates of staff, 
  • difficulties finding and hiring new staff, 
  • and often part way through an onboarding finding that a new hire declares they have had a change of heart and that they no longer like what they see and have taken up another offer elsewhere effective immediately.

So this brings us back to the core question, which is “how to motivate employees,” which is in effect a combination of three key challenges, in my opinion, which are:

Accommodate the most effective working model your staff desires

Understand and accommodate as much as possible the working model your staff desires and are most effective in.

That could be: 

  • fully work from home
  • return to an office
  • hybrid of remote and office time

Find ways to make each of these three models function for the hiring organization and the employee.

Empower team leaders and managers to develop and use flexible working models 

Find routes to drive and deliver outcomes the organization either desires or requires, but with the new model of working and how employees wish to be hired and incentivized.

If the team leaders and managers facing these challenges are fully empowered to both negotiate and manage according to how their current staff and teams can and want to work, they will deliver outcomes. 

It may, though, require executives and the CEO, and the board to adjust their views regarding how outcomes are realized.

Develop clear means of communicating with the entire organization

Develop open, clear, honest, transparent means of communicating with:

  • individuals, 
  • teams, 
  • departments, 
  • and the organization as a whole. 

Such changes are communicated immediately, like changes in policy or impacts on the organization.

Information empowers good decision-making; employees who are fully informed will feel better empowered to make good decisions both for themselves and the organization as a whole.

When implemented well, communication policies, tools, and methods have been seen to completely transform how employees are motivated. Be it: 

  • SMS messages to their phones
  • Emails
  • Slack or Teams chat groups
  • Voice or video conference calls

major motivation for employees is to be fully informed, clearly, and regularly communicated with.

Elene Cafasso, MCC

Elene Cafasso

Leadership Development Expert | Executive Coach | President, Enerpace, Inc. Executive Coaching

Know possible career paths and how the talent review process works in your firm

A simple Google search or a visit to Gallup’s website will reveal the most common factors that motivate employees. However, that’s employees in general—not necessarily the people you manage.

Employees are individuals. Some want to be in the office because they feed off the energy of being around people. Others are motivated by working at home with the flexibility to handle all areas of their life better. 

In fact, many employees say they work longer hours for the company since they are saving the time they used to waste commuting.

When was the last time you actually asked the folks reporting to you about: 

  • What energizes them? 
  • What would make their current role ideal? 
  • How can you help add some of that to their job? 
  • What’s frustrating them? 
  • Perhaps you can help them find a workaround? 

Not only will they be more motivated, but you’ll also actually increase the odds that you won’t have to look for their replacement any time soon because they’ll be more willing to stay with the company.

A typical “development conversation” only occurs around the annual performance review. In the worst-case scenario, it’s all part of the same conversation.

Where do you see your career in 3-5 years? is the typical question. It’s valid, but only if your employee knows what’s possible! 

  • Is their only career path to wait for someone above them to leave? What else exists in the organization? 
  • What type of managerial/leadership competencies do they need to build or strengthen to be ready for their next position?

As a manager, it’s crucial that you get yourself educated on possible career paths and how the talent review process works in your firm. 

Find an HR partner who can help you answer the following questions. Enlist your own manager if necessary.

  • How does the organization identify the key talent they want to keep and groom for future growth? 
  • What types of development opportunities are available in your company? 
  • Training classes only, or are there mentor programs or cross-functional team projects that would enable your people to continue to grow? 

Employment is really a partnership. Beyond a paycheck, what does the employer bring to the employee’s career development? What’s your brand as an employer? 

Conversely, companies have every right to expect employees’ best efforts to achieve the requirements of their position.  

Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to resign due to not being a fit with their manager than any other reason. Having these types of conversations is sure to help.

Leaders can set the stage, but motivation is an internal state. I love how Daniel Pink took decades worth of research on motivation and distilled it into three human needs (from Pink’s book Drive): autonomy, purpose, and mastery.

Allow employees to have autonomy

We need a sense of control and agency in our work (and lives). 

  • A micromanager takes that away by constant hovering and direction. 
  • A great manager allows people to use their brains to organize and complete their work. 

Related: How to Deal With Micromanagers

It starts with proper training so that people know what to do and how to do it, and a knowledge that their leaders have their backs, will offer required resources, and back them up.

An example of autonomy in a customer service job is to provide agents with the ability to satisfy a complaining customer by using their own judgment of what to offer (i.e., money, freebies, services, speaking with a higher-up). 

Most of us have had the opposite experience where the agent is provided a script but has no authority to do anything but pass you along to someone else. By the time you, the customer, finally reach someone who can remedy the problem, you’re infuriated.

When staff members have guardrails and know the arena in which they have autonomy for decisions, they own their jobs and wish to make their customers (internal or external) happy.

Let them see their purpose and how it fits the larger mission

We want to know that what we do matters. Being nothing but a cog in a gigantic wheel is a depressing place to be—it doesn’t matter if we show up or not. 

It’s a mistake to think that non-professional jobs are of lesser purpose than ones with hifalutin titles. 

Regardless of the job title, when people are oriented to their positions, they should be provided with an understanding of where their work fits into the organization’s larger mission. Sadly, many managers never think to do this.

For example, a housekeeper in a cancer clinic could see the job of cleaning restrooms as nothing but that. 

When the purpose of their role is explained in the larger context of assuring that these vulnerable patients are protected from infections, they become a member of the healthcare team—their work matters.

Know their desired growth and level of mastery

We’re wired to desire growth. There is a sweet spot we seek in jobs—they provide enough challenge to engage us but aren’t so difficult as to be discouraging. 

Most of us grow in a position and morph it over time. For dead-end jobs, we typically look for more challenging work overtime to stay engaged. 

Careers in science or working with people have built-in challenges because you can never completely master the work. The questions change, the work evolves, and skills deepen.

It’s important to note that some people want a rote job that pays adequately, that they can do well, and leave behind when they walk out the door. 

People with busy lives are often very happy with less challenge and more predictability. However, throughout one’s life, our needs and wants change.

Learn their “de-motivators”

A man named Frederick Hertzberg came up with the “Two-factor Theory” based on his research in the 1960s. The theory consists of motivators and hygiene factors

The motivators are: 

  • achievement
  • recognition
  • satisfaction of the work itself
  • responsibility and opportunities for advancement and growth

These same items show up repeatedly in current employee surveys.

When absent or poorly executed, hygiene factors create a lack of motivation and dissatisfaction. These include: 

  • company policy and administration, 
  • supervision, 
  • working relationships, 
  • and status and security. 

Pay falls into hygiene factors; when it’s inadequate, it’s a source of rancor. We know from numerous studies that people leave their work due to toxic bosses and colleagues and a lack of opportunity.

Current research by father-son researchers Donald Sull and Charles Sull indicates that workers leave toxic cultures and that being disrespected is the single highest reason—by a factor of eighteen.

Corporate culture, management practices, and work relationships conspire to create an environment that enhances employee motivation or tanks it. 

There are many lessons to be learned from the “Great Resignation” about what doesn’t work and will not be tolerated by our workforce any longer.

Giedre Kojaliene

Giedre Kojaliene

Head of People and Organization Development, carVertical

Given that we are a fully remote company that sees work from the office as an added value, since the beginning, we have strived to find new ways to maintain our employees’ levels of motivation and make them feel connected and happy.

We regularly evaluate and refine our approach to ensure that our team is satisfied and that we can produce the best work results as a team.

To motivate employees, we take eight following steps:

Have mentoring sessions

There is no formal mentoring program at the company. However, we have formed small teams which include a team leader–mentor, and the rest of the team (5-6 people). 

The relationship between the senior staff and junior employees encourages the growth of new, strong professionals, which allows them to contribute more to more challenging tasks. 

It also gives the senior employee a chance to share their knowledge. Additionally, mentoring fosters a close relationship between the mentor and the mentee and motivates them.

Related: 75+ Great Questions to Ask Your Mentor

Provide unlimited paid time off

We provide employees the opportunity and encourage them to take an additional paid vacation if they feel exhausted and unmotivated to work.

Conduct regular one-on-ones

We believe that nothing beats face-to-face meetings. It’s crucial to communicate with each employee frequently so that they know you appreciate and care about them. 

It is also a good time to spot signs of low motivation and decreased productivity.

Hold monthly self-improvement activities for employees

Sometimes it’s a lecture about psychological well-being, sometimes about personal finance management, but the point is to get employees away from their daily tasks—at least an hour and invite them to spend some quality time with colleagues. 

Also, we need to keep our staff inspired to pursue knowledge not only in their profession but also in other important areas of life.

Related: How to Inspire Others

Set monthly company lunches

Building relationships is vital both at work and outside of it. Colleagues have more opportunities to socialize and form friendships outside the workplace, which undoubtedly affects their desire to work for the company.

Have team-building activities

We believe that you should not only work hard but also play hard. Our team plans activities like: 

  • go-karting, 
  • spa trips, 
  • summertime parties, 
  • and various sessions that foster creativity.

Allow peer-to-peer recognition 

Our company allows employees to give each other bonus points, which can then be converted into cash or gift vouchers (e.g., Amazon). Everything is covered by the company. 

Knowing that your peers appreciate and respect you has a direct influence on a person’s motivation. This recognition system also improves employee engagement and can even boost profits.

Allocate professional development fund

What excites employees the most is that we allocate a learning budget and encourage employees to improve and learn. And they can do it during working hours.

Given the low rate of employee turnover and the fact that the number of workers doubles yearly, we can confidently say that our strategy for motivating people is effective.

Dr. Yuvay Ferguson

Yuvay Ferguson

Assistant Dean of Impact and Engagement and Associate Professor, School of Business at Howard University

Consider and look into the “generational lens”

Many leaders forget to consider the “generational lens” variable when speaking with employees.” 

Like language, the generational experiences a person has lived through can dictate how they interpret the world around them. 

This includes the world of “work.” And using this stream of thought, there are unique and specific ways to encourage your employees that may resonate with them based on their generation. 

Boomers (approx. 1950 – 1964)

This group is ready for retirement, although they are generally loyal employees and enjoy the stability of being a part of the workforce. 

Depending upon your goal, incentives that reaffirm affiliation will energize this group. Celebrations of tenure and wisdom would work well with this group. 

Gen X (approx. 1965 – 1979)

This group of employees is generally individualistic and wants the freedom to tailor their experience to their specific situation. 

This group is sandwiched between caring for parents and children, so having choice and autonomy is essential for Gen X employees at this stage of life. 

They could be energized by: 

  • The option to customize their work format 
  • Or be able to choose their incentives

For example, the ability to regularly choose between monetary bonus options or the ability to select a flex work schedule would feel like a reward for this group. 

Millennials (approx. 1980 – 1994) 

They have, to some degree, opposite traits to the Boomers. They saw companies lay off their “loyal employee” parents without hesitation, making them transient and nomadic as employees. 

They will work hard but not hesitate to leave a company for other career opportunities. This group is keenly aware of the “go to grow” method of increasing your salary. 

If you value this employee group, note that they are driven by money and flexibility

Regularly monitoring (and adjusting for) the market value of their positions will keep you ahead of this group, which is constantly scanning the workforce for higher pay. 

Realizing that they are digital natives who will use technology to work efficiently and will question why they need to have set work hours and in-office face time can lead you to create incentives, like work from home or hybrid work schedules, that will excite this group. 

The newest generation in the workforce is Gen Z (born after 1995)

They are still very early in their careers and eager to absorb all they can. They will seek a lot of feedback and be encouraged by being “heard” in the business decision-making process. 

On the flip side, if they are not encouraged, they will quickly feel defeated and leave the role and possibly the industry. 

Incentives that upskill and groom Gen Z employees, like: 

  • Opportunities to engage with current leaders,
  • or sponsoring special training/certifications

will be exciting to this group to keep them on track in their careers with you.

Brian Trzaskos, PT, LMT, CSCS

Brian Trzaskos

Human Wellness Expert | Somatic Intelligence Expert, Motivation Beyond Measure

Think about the “Motivational Hierarchy”

In any business with employees, we must remember that we are always human first. As humans, we are unique, with individual constellations of what we care about, fear, and long for. 

The simple question of how to motivate a group of employees as if they were all the same immediately places us out of step with the living reality of an organization; we are all unique. 

With that said, there are levels in which all humans are generally motivated and that employers typically use to move people into action; we like to call this a motivational hierarchy. 

The bottom level of the hierarchy is motivated “away from”

The lowest level of motivation is to move to get away from or avoid something undesirable from happening. This is a classic motivational strategy of using fear to motivate, and it works well in times of great distress and overt danger. 

The energy output associated with this motivational level is very high; however, it lacks specific focus and is not long-term sustainable as it consumes much more energy than it returns. 

For example: Consider how powerfully health care professionals were motivated in the early days of the COVID pandemic. Less than a year after it began, we saw unprecedented levels of burnout

Employers who habitually use this lowest level of motivation may see their employees burst in motion. However, that movement is unlikely to return specific and long-term results. 

More likely, they will see high levels of disengagement and burnout.

The next level of motivation is motivated “towards” 

This middle level is obviously healthier than the lowest level but also has drawbacks.

Employers who use the “motivated toward” strategy will set specific goals for their employees to reach in hopes that those goals will inspire their people. 

In work settings, these goals are typically tied to sales and productivity, yet at the same time, we must remember that employees are humans first, with a uniqueness to each of us. 

In other words, broad sales and productivity goals will not inspire all humans equally, making it feel like only a small portion of the organization is actually rowing the boat. 

Similar to the lowest level of motivation, being “motivated towards” consumes energy in pursuit of an expected future payoff. Think about someone who wants to lose 50 pounds. 

This requires a daily output of energy not just to exercise but, more importantly, to overcome the inertia of not exercising. If the proposed goal is too large or too far off, the daily output of energy required to meet the goal will dwindle, leaving the boat dead in the water. 

The highest level of motivation is motivated “by” 

Being motivated “by” something is far and above the most powerful source of intentional movement. 

People motivated by love will scale the highest mountains and swim across the widest rivers, and people inspired by justice will repeatedly march peacefully into violent resistance. 

When people know what they are motivated “by” and that reason is supported by the people and environment surrounding them, their motivational energy creates its own output and will feed itself. 

The motivated “by” level takes advantage of both the lower levels while discarding the drawbacks. They both have a significant amount of energy for movement and sustained energy because the energy source is intrinsic. 

They are energized to get up and contribute every day, not because it’s tied to a goal but because it feeds their soul.

See employees as unique contributors 

It would make sense from our discussion above those employers interested in sustainable motivation would activate the motivated “by” level. However, very few do. 

Why? Because the time and resources it takes to put in place the vast majority of employers are motivated “away from“; see the irony? 

Motivated “away from” is doing whatever is possible to avoid the short-term pain; however, most often, leaders and organizations “jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.” 

This is obviously not sustainable and has largely led to this period we call the “great resignation.” 

The highest percentage of employees in the workforce right now, who are millennials, work for a purpose, not solely organizational goals. Workers today want to be symbiotic with their organizations, not subservient to them.

This means that employees desire to be seen as unique contributors and recipients with: 

  • who they are, 
  • what they do, 
  • and why it matters. 

In other words, purpose isn’t something we do it’s a way of being. 

Related: How to Find Meaning and Purpose in Your Life

When an employee is experiencing what they feel is their core purpose daily, and that purpose is being recognized and supported by their leaders and colleagues, organizational goals take care of themselves and exceed expectations. 

Thankfully, a person’s unique core motivational purpose can be identified and measured, taking the guessing game out of the employer’s hands, leaving time to acknowledge and support their employees’ uniqueness in a way that feeds back on itself for the benefit of everyone

Amie Devero

amie devero

Coach and Consultant | President, Beyond Better | Author, Powered by Principle: Using Core Values to Build World-Class Organizations

Learn which extrinsic motivators your team craves

There is no single answer to this question. People are motivated by different things. The most fundamental job of every manager is to learn what motivates the individuals they manage. 

Organizational leaders often assume that better pay, commissions, or bonuses are the answer. But only a percentage of people are genuinely money-motivated. For those people, commissions, bonuses, and raises are motivating. 

But for others, their primary motivators can be as varied as wanting to feel approval, getting public kudos, or even feeling like they are making a difference in the world. 

But, although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, it’s not hard to learn what motivates your team. 

If you don’t glean it from one-on-ones or other conversations, then ask. When I ask my clients what motivates them and give them a list, they can always identify their motivator. They’re not just guessing either. 

The thing that motivates someone is visceral. They essentially have organized their lives around getting that thing. So, it’s emotionally resonant when they are offered it. 

The main buckets of motivation are: 

  • money 
  • control or authority
  • approval
  • fame
  • love 
  • making a difference 
  • a sense of belonging

For each motivator (or each variation on them), there are innumerable ways to address them. 

Someone who is motivated by a need for approval will respond well to positive feedback on their work. A teammate mostly motivated by gaining authority or fame will do well in a gamified environment—because she will strive to win. 

By learning which extrinsic motivators your team craves, you can provide them with the kind of work environment in which they will strive to do their best.

Catherine Mattiske

Catherine Mattiske

CEO and Founder, ID9 Intelligent Design | Author, “Unlock Inner Genius

Tap into how they like to receive information

Everyone has a unique preference for taking in and processing information. 

Tapping into how your team learns and getting each employee working in their “genius zone” is a quickfire way to connect with them and get them to spark new ideas and take ownership of projects.

Build meaning and connection

Employees need to feel connected to the business, its product or services, team, and leadership. 

At each meeting, add something that adds the “why” to illustrate how each employee is: 

  • solving problems for customers, 
  • connecting to their community, 
  • and working for a higher purpose. 

Ensure that employees know how their work contributes to the overall company goal. 

Buzz-off the corporate-speak

Do you talk bandwidth, pivot, taking things offline, mindshare, mission-critical, monetize, next level, blah blah? 

Motivate your employees with four powerful questions that put them in the driver’s seat to inspire and deliver results. Instead, ask your team:                       

  1. What’s your experience with this?     
  2. What are the facts?    
  3. How does it work?    
  4. What are the possibilities?

Look for influencing opportunities

Each employee has the potential to influence their peers, customers, and leaders—but only when they are given the opportunity. 

There is a sense of achievement when people take action. As a leader, you can influence potential influencers—i.e., your employees. 

Related: 3 Secrets to Improve Your Influence Skills

Provide opportunities to celebrate successes when they achieve goals, set activities that create interest or desire, allow them to try out new ideas, and provide constant inquiry and stretches. 

R. Karl Hebenstreit, Ph.D., PCC, PHR

R. Karl Hebenstreit

Leadership and Organization Development Expert, Perform & Function, LLC | Author, “Taking Care of Business with the Enneagram

Have transparent, regular conversations with your employees

This topic is dear to my heart, as I have worked in Human Resources for over 25 years. I also have a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology, where my dissertation was about “Using the Enneagram to Help Organizations Attract, Retain, and Motivate their Employees.” (The Enneagram is a motivation typing system). 

My research validated that employees are, indeed, motivated by different factors regarding their employment, based on their core Enneagram type. 

Having a strong, caring leader who takes the time to get to know each of their direct reports and their unique needs/motivators is critical (it is true that people will leave an organization because of a bad boss). 

Organizations currently really motivate our “assertive” types of employees (the competitive personalities who seek out monetary rewards, titles, control, etc.) and effectively ignore the core needs of others.

Ultimately, managers and leaders need to have transparent, regular conversations with their employees to find out what’s going on in their work and personal lives that may change the importance of different factors. 

Underlying them all, however, may be one of the following that may be more important than the others:

  • a need for doing the right thing (alignment of the organization’s values with theirs, as well as fairness in the system)
  • feeling recognized for the contributions that they’re making and having strong connections to their peers, 
  • being rewarded for the goals they’ve achieved
  • feeling like they are truly unique, 
  • being given opportunities to learn and grow, 
  • feeling safe, secure, comfortable (belonging to a “tribe”), and trusting of leadership,
  • being given opportunities to expand into different areas of interest, 
  • having a specific/respected span of control/authority (that can grow), 
  • and maintaining a harmonious work environment.

Henry Penix

Henry Penix

CEO and Co-Founder, Soaak Technologies

Create an environment that supports them to tap into their own motivation

True motivation comes from within. As a leader, the best thing you can do is to create an environment that supports and encourages employees to tap into their own motivation. 

This means providing things like: 

  • clear goals, 
  • regular feedback, 
  • opportunities for growth, 
  • mental health and wellness tools, 
  • and a sense of community. 

Doing this can help employees feel supported and successful in their work. And when employees feel successful, they are more likely to be motivated to achieve even greater success.

Of course, motivation is not always easy to come by. There will be times when employees need a little extra push. That’s where your motivation comes in. 

As a leader, you can set the tone for the whole team. When you model motivation and hard work, you inspire your employees to do the same. By doing this, you help create a group of individuals who are more likely to achieve great things.

We all know that motivation is vital in the workplace. After all, motivated employees are more likely to be productive and successful. But what can we do to ensure that our employees stay motivated? 

Let them know that you are behind them every step of the way

Provide support and encouragement. Letting them know that we are behind them every step of the way. We can also help them to set goals and dream big. By motivating in the workplace, we can help our employees to achieve their full potential.

Related: 22 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important for Success

When trying to motivate your employees, you have to invest the time and energy it takes to meet them where they are at and help them realize what they are capable of. 

Taking the time to sit with them one-on-one, listen to their struggles, and help them create goals for themselves will help motivate and inspire them to be their best. They want to know you care.

And employers can make even a greater statement to their employees by taking advantage of certain breakthrough technologies—in the mindfulness, mental health, and wellness space. 

When employees know that you care about every area of their life, including their mental health and wellbeing, they become even more motivated.

Companies focusing on such see greater employee motivation and financial returns. They are generally happier, more engaged, and less stressed than their counterparts. 

A 2022 study by Deloitte found that employers who focused on providing said services to their employees saw a return of approximately $5 for every $1 invested.

By utilizing breakthrough technologies, coupled with the human touch of caring and understanding, today’s leaders can confidently motivate any employee in any industry.

Rakhi Oswal

Rakhi Oswal

Life Coach | Founder, Edrio

It lies in employee engagement and a sense of achievement

In my opinion, an employer should consider four aspects of employee motivation:

  1. office environment
  2. working style
  3. employee psychological condition
  4. employer’s influence on employees

Firstly, employees will feel motivated if they want to go to the office/virtual workspace every morning and give their best to the organization. 

So, make the office or virtual workspace a welcoming and progressive place with fair policies and positive work culture—making the office space a: 

  • trustworthy, 
  • transparent, 
  • consistent, 
  • and pleasant place, free of prejudices and discrimination.

In the present turbulent times of mass resignation, giving good pay with perks is not enough to satisfy the employees. As an entrepreneur and life coach, I feel the key to motivating employees lies in employee engagement and a sense of achievement. 

The employee will feel motivated to put his best foot forward if he thinks his work contributes to the organizational goals. So, acknowledgment, appreciation, recognition, and rewards for his performance can help motivate workers. 

Further, allow them to grow with training and employee developmental programs. Opening two-way communication where you give and ask for employee feedback can help build strong professional relationships leading to greater employee contribution.

I suggest employers include employees in the decision-making process and ask for their opinion during project reviews where the employee is directly involved. 

When I go for team meetings, I ask employees to cast aside their job hierarchy and think as professionals working on the same project or task.

Motivation is a psychological state, so it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that employees’ mental health at the workplace is being taken care of. 

  • Plan team-building events, 
  • healthy competitions, 
  • contests, 
  • unofficial gatherings, 
  • and team dinners 

to allow employees to open up, socialize, and feel connected to the organization. 

Use the gatherings to reveal employees’ hidden talents and unique capabilities that scale up their confidence and self-esteem. Also, launch different physical, social, and mental wellness programs, including employee assistance programs for the employees who need help.

Lastly, the success of all the motivation techniques depends on the manager or employer’s ability and personality. So, be an honest, respectful, and supportive leader who inspires and leads by example. 

Employees feel secure, happy, and motivated when they are led by dynamic personalities with vision and are eager to contribute to fulfilling the organization’s objectives.

Suzie Finch

Suzie Finch

Recruitment and HR Professional | Founder and CEO, The Career Improvement Club

Get to know each employee

We’re all different. A strong motivation strategy starts with understanding what drives each member of the team.

Some will be driven by work culture, L&D, or inclusivity, while others might see work as just a paycheck and a means to fund a family or social life outside the office.

The best managers will take their time getting to know each employee. A quick chat here and an overheard conversation there build a bigger picture of the person sitting at the desk opposite you.

Most managers like to conduct weekly one-to-ones, and although this can feel like the perfect time to ask questions about motivation, it can feel too obvious, and a bit forced

A better strategy is the water cooler approach; taking mental notes from passing conversations and asking questions such as “what are you up to this weekend” can be very revealing.

Tailor personalized incentives and environments to suit them

Once you’ve listened to and understood what drives your work colleagues, you can tailor personalized incentives and environments to suit them.

For example: Gill works from home on a Tuesday because she helps to teach school kids soccer at 15:00, or Matt has provided the best customer service this month, so he’s won a track day in muscle cars.

Staff will appreciate that you’ve listened and taken the time to get to know them, which in turn creates a working environment where people are motivated, engaged, and prepared to go that extra mile for you.

Listening is a very underrated skill, and this motivational style plays on that.

Related: 50+ Reasons Why Listening Is Important

James Lloyd-Townshend

james lloyd-townshend

Chairman and CEO, Frank Recruitment Group

Respect is the biggest motivator in a workplace

It’s as simple as that. Employees who feel overlooked and disrespected will lack any incentive to fulfill their full working potential. 

Not only will productivity decrease, but you also risk the standard of work taking a hit too. If you can’t create an environment that builds morale, you can’t expect creativity and ingenuity to flourish. 

The easiest way to prevent this is by finding the best communication channels for your team. This could be a one-to-one congratulations message or organizing regular group calls with your team to celebrate their successes.

Acknowledging and celebrating success encourages more of it. 

Another way to show respect is to give your team the freedom to do their job without looming over their shoulders. This doesn’t mean taking your foot off the pedal, though. 

It could be as simple as giving employees flexibility over their schedules or helping them to prioritize their workload. 

Doing this shows that you trust your employees to do their job, and they know you are there if needed. This can motivate them to push themselves further and get the job done. 

Respect is not just shown in how you communicate with your team but also in the environment you create and the ethics you exhibit. If you can show all these things, your team will go above and beyond without even realizing it. 

Related: What Is “Business Ethics” and Why Is It Important?

Without it, there is low employee satisfaction and a potential loss of talent—something no business can afford.

Sanya Nagpal

Sanya Nagpal

Head of Human Resources, Leena AI

Be transparent and maintain a clear flow of communication

Being transparent is crucial, especially when motivating employees and promoting a culture that hosts ownership, experimentation, and innovation. 

Maintaining a clear flow of communication helps everyone be on the same page. It encourages them to stay active and transparent while working on similar projects and taking charge of the tasks given to them. 

Being transparent also helps teams become more resilient and open to experimenting with different strategies for different projects. 

For example, when someone is stuck on a project, communicating it with their team helps resolve the issue quickly and develop innovative solutions.

Find the right tools for growth and development

Platforms and tools also play an integral role in motivating teams. Employees are more connected when they find the right tools for growth and development. 

Access to platforms that help upskill and engages them in their work. Utilizing the correct platforms and tools also ensures a smooth workflow between the team, even in a remote work environment, ensuring everyone is equally motivated.

Lattice Hudson

Lattice Hudson

Business Coach and Leadership Mentor | Founder, Lattice & Co

Recognize that they are individual beings

While providing employment security may not be within your area of power, it is crucial to recognize as a good manager that an employee’s motivation will naturally decline if they believe their career path is in peril. 

Unfortunately, if there is a genuine threat to their career, there is only so much you can do to boost motivation. In the end, no amount of good feedback and employee recognition can alleviate the persistent fear that you may be laid off at any time. 

The best thing you can do to inspire staff during difficult times is to recognize that they are individual beings with lives that rely on a steady paycheck

If the firm does not intend to reorganize, it is critical to present your staff with as much information as possible. Employee retention and motivation may suffer due to misunderstandings caused by a communication gap between employees and corporate executives.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook

HR Director, Mullen and Mullen

Give them a tangible career development path

One mistake that leaders often make when motivating their teams is only focusing on the underperformers

Top performers also need to be motivated, and doing so can make the difference between making your organization either dynamic or stagnant. Top performers can quickly feel like they are constrained from pursuing their career goals because they are stuck in a rigid organizational framework. 

However, they probably want to stay in the company as much as employers want them to stay. 

More than just an increase in their salary, these top performers are motivated by a sense of purpose and forward movement within the company.

They should be given ample opportunity to grow professionally within the organization. This means giving them a tangible career development path complete with learning and development opportunities and resources that help them in this journey.

Linda Shaffer

Linda Shaffer

Chief People and Operations Officer, Checkr, Inc.

As our organizations have become more complex and the workforce more diverse, the answer to the question “how do you motivate employees” has become more elusive

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, a few key principles can help you create a motivating environment for your team.

Help the team see the connection between their work and the company’s success

Your team members must understand how their individual contributions fit into the bigger picture. When they see how their work affects the company’s bottom line, they are more likely to be motivated to do their best.

Encourage a growth mindset

A growth mindset is a belief that intelligence and ability can be developed. This type of thinking has been shown to lead to greater motivation and perseverance in facing challenges.

Help your team members adopt a growth mindset by praising their effort and progress rather than their natural ability.

Create opportunities for autonomy

Giving your team members some degree of control over their work can lead to higher levels of engagement and motivation. When people feel like they are in charge of their own destiny, they are more likely to be committed to achieving their goals.

Jennifer Hartman

Jennifer Hartman

HR Specialist, Fit Small Business

Experiment with different techniques

Employees are a vital part of any organization and need to be motivated to be productive. There are many different methods of motivating employees, and the best way to find out what works for your organization is to experiment with different techniques.

It is crucial to choose the method of motivation that will work best for each employee and the company as a whole. 

Some examples include:

  • Performance bonuses
  • Praise
  • Recognition
  • Teambuilding activities
  • Creative challenges

Motivating employees is key to a successful business. It is important to remember that motivation is not a one-time event; it needs to be nurtured and maintained to keep employees engaged and enthusiastic about their work.

Alan Ahdoot

Alan Ahdoot

Legal Specialist, Adamson Ahdoot LLP

Make them understand the difference they’re making in people’s lives

We employ a team of attorneys and administrators dedicated to standing up for people who have been the victims of wrongful conduct. For us, it’s an honor that our clients entrust us with their cases. It motivates us to pursue justice on their behalf.

I learned very early during my legal career—even before it began—how gratifying it is to use your skills and education to help others who don’t have the same advantages and privileges as you.

There are people across Southern California (and the country) who don’t have the necessary resources to seek the justice they deserve. That’s where we come in. I make sure all of our employees understand how important our job is.

We represent the injured and oppressed. We work for the greater good. We’re experts in our field, professionals in the courtroom, and always empathetic to those we serve.

Our law firm is diverse because we represent a diverse group of clients. Our founders are African-American and Jewish-Iranian, and 90% of our workforce is bilingual.

You keep your workforce motivated by reminding them why they do what they do. They’re not chasing a paycheck—they’re helping people. They’re making an impact. That’s how our attorneys stay motivated.

Jodi Soyars

Jodi Soyars

Criminal Defense and Family Law Lawyer, Soyars & Morgan Law

Allow employees the freedom to be creative and solve problems

It can be difficult when you notice your company is in a period of struggle. Many business owners, in times of stress, tend to jump in and micromanage under the impression that what they are doing is helping.

In reality, this has the opposite effect. By jumping in to try to “solve” the problem, your staff ends up feeling inadequate and like they must get permission before attempting to solve the problem in their own way.

By allowing employees the freedom to be creative and have autonomy within their careers, you will find that they likely come up with solutions you haven’t thought of.

Ensure your team does not burn out

Many business owners have destroyed their success by expecting too much for too little from their employees. It is essential to me that the environment my staff works in is comfortable and that they have the freedom of balance within their lives.

Small gestures, and a lack of too many rules, have brought my company many benefits. Simple things like allowing headphones, as some find it easier to engage in deep work this way. 

Ensuring that your employees have adequate time for a lunch break and are not expected to be on call at 10 pm, long after the work day has finished.

Nothing demotivates a team more than feeling like they are not trusted or that their personhood does not matter.

Maya Zack, MSc

Maya Zack

Personal Development and Mindset Coach | Performance Specialist, You Can Do Anything

Show appreciation and empathy 

Everyone wants to feel valued and like they matter. Additionally, particularly now, many are struggling post-pandemic. 

  • Being considerate of their needs and challenges can help get them through it and give them the feeling that they are “working together.
  • Also, acknowledging or celebrating achievements encourages motivation employees to achieve more.
  • Many employees are struggling after the pandemic with going back to the office. Allowing flexibility can go a long way to make them feel they can tackle the “big return.” 
  • Provide wellbeing and personal development programs. Whether workshops or online training, these can reduce stress, improve confidence, resilience, focus, clarity, and much more.

Communicate clearly and transparently

This promotes trust and better collaboration. Ensure employees’ individual and personal goals are aligned with the business goals by clarifying the business’ vision and team members’ roles within that and their plans for their future.

Encouraging feedback will also make employees feel that they and their opinions are valued.

Encourage social relationships between team members

Organize fun activities, both at the office as well as off-site. This can: 

  • reduce stress,
  • promote more personal satisfaction at work,
  • and encourage better interaction between team members for better productivity and performance

which, again, should be celebrated when hitting goals. Employees feel they are part of something “bigger” than themselves.

Provide opportunities for learning, job progression, or leadership

Employees want to be part of a place where they’re encouraged to grow, allowing them the potential to achieve more.

Drewbie Wilson

Drewbie Wilson

Vice President, Break Free Academy | Author, “Crushing The Day

Find what motivates each individual and tailor your approach accordingly

Employees are the backbone of any company, and their motivation is essential to the business’s success because it directly affects productivity. 

When employees are motivated, they’re more likely to be engaged and productive, which leads to better business outcomes. I see to it that my employees are well-motivated by ensuring that their work is meaningful and has a purpose. 

I also give them autonomy so they can feel ownership of their work and provide opportunities for them to learn and grow. Furthermore, I regularly give feedback, so they know how they are doing and what areas need improvement.

While there are many ways to motivate employees, some methods are more effective than others. And what works for one employee might not work for another. 

The key is to find what motivates each individual and tailor your approach accordingly. These tips can help you get started:

Recognize and reward good performance

When employees do a good job, be sure to let them know that you noticed. A simple “thank you” can go a long way. You can also reward employees with bonuses, raises, or other perks.

Offer challenges and varieties

Employees often become bored if they are doing the same thing day in and day out. To keep them motivated, offer challenges and variety in their work. This could include new assignments, working on special projects, or anything else that will keep them engaged.

Provide opportunities for growth

When employees feel like they are stuck in a rut, they can become unmotivated. 

To keep them motivated, provide opportunities for growth within the company. This could include training and development programs, mentoring programs, or anything else that will help them advance in their career.

Communicate openly and frequently with employees

Employees need to know what is going on in the company to stay motivated. Be sure to communicate openly and frequently with employees. This could include holding regular meetings, sending out newsletters, or anything else that will keep them informed.

Encourage a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle can improve employee productivity and motivation. To encourage a healthy lifestyle, offer employees perks such as: 

  • gym memberships, 
  • healthy food options, 
  • or anything else that will help them live a healthier life.

These are just a few tips on how to motivate employees. The most important thing is to find what works best for your company and your employees and then stick with it.

Kathy Walterhouse

Kathy Walterhouse

CEO and Founder, The Professional Rule Breaker

Ensure everyone feels valued

Unmotivated employees are a problem for any company. It is essential to figure out the root cause of why your employees are unmotivated so that you can fix the situation.

Top three reasons why your employees could be unmotivated

  1. feeling like their work is not valued or appreciated
  2. dissatisfaction with their working conditions
  3. feeling like they do not have a voice within the company

All three reasons boil down to the employees’ feeling like they are not valued. This could stem from a company culture where decisions are solely made at the top without taking any feedback or listening to the employees. 

It could be a scenario where you are busy trying to hit numbers or reach a company milestone without considering your employees. Your employees feel expendable and ignored. So how do you turn this around?  

Slow down and take a step back to assess the situation. What is working well? What could be improved? This will help you identify areas where you need to focus your efforts.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty

If you want to motivate your employees, it is important to let them see that you are willing to pitch in and do the same work they are doing.

By demonstrating that you are not above them, you will earn their respect and appreciation. In turn, they will be more motivated to do their best work. 

It is also important to remember that it is the boss’s job to protect the employees and the employee’s job to make the boss look good. You can create a positive and productive work environment by working together and supporting one another.

Collaborate

Next, hold a meeting with your employees. Express your gratitude for their hard work and ask for input on how to move forward in a positive direction. Brainstorming together can help everyone feel like they’re part of the solution.

Incorporate fun into team activities

A key element to a successful business is having a team of motivated employees who feel like valued members of the company. 

One way to foster this environment is by incorporating fun into team-building exercises. When everyone can contribute and have a good time, it helps create a sense of camaraderie and strengthens relationships within the workplace. 

By ensuring everyone feels valued, you can create an enjoyable and productive work environment for all. This, in turn, can lead to increased productivity and motivation. 

Just remember: employees don’t leave companies; they leave people.

Consider hosting regular social events or creating incentives for reaching goals. Making an effort can go a long way in keeping your team happy and productive.

Biana Lerman

Biana Lerman

Life Coach, Future Forward

Give employees a platform to explore their passions openly

As a personal growth professional with a background in studying employee engagement, I have seen a shift happening post-pandemic that is very interesting. 

Many individuals are now re-evaluating their current positions and trying to align more with what they are passionate about. 

With that said, I would encourage corporations and small businesses to openly support their employees’ personal and professional growth while at their company. 

Allowing an open and honest conversation in the workplace on the importance of setting attainable goals in any aspect of their life or career will give employees a platform to explore their passions openly.

Related: Why Is Passion Important for Success in Life?

We have found that, in most cases, employees quickly realize that the burnout they feel has nothing to do with their job and has more to do with inner struggles that hinder performance. 

With a corporate, personal growth program in place, a company shows its employees that it is as invested in their well-being as they want those employees to be invested in the well-being of the company they work for. 

When a company shows they care deeply about the development of their teams, employees tend to increase productivity rates, and companies increase retention rates, making for much more meaningful life and work experience.

Shon Holyfield

Shon Holyfield

CEO, Amazing Workplace

Reduce the stress experienced by your employees

When talking about motivation, one needs to analyze it as a concept and break it into its component parts to get a full picture of what contributes to this often misunderstood and greatly sought-after quality. 

While you could, in the short term, give a rousing speech and get the troops hooting with excitement, that burst of energy is likely to subside when they return to their desks.

But if you’re looking for a long-term solution that engenders a feeling of true motivation, then you must take a deeper look. 

The question is how much agreement an employee perceives to have with the workplace and the environment.

If you could be a fly on the wall in the local pub and listen to the gripes and complaints of your employees when they gather outside of the office, you’ll find that it boils down to one main category—all the things that they are out of alignment with (or in disagreement with) at their workplace. 

The good news is that the solution to these disagreements is quite simple. The main objective is to reduce the stress experienced by your employees.

Stress gets in the way of productivity and acts as a distraction. Until the source of that stress is addressed, it only grows and gets worse

If employees don’t feel they have enough freedom to enjoy a healthy work/life balance, their motivation will deteriorate rapidly.

Similarly, if they don’t fully understand and share the goals and purposes of your company, their motivation will suffer

But, if they feel valued by leadership, encouraged, and supported in an environment where people: 

  • feel safe and wanted 
  • are treated fairly
  • have the resources to do their best work 
  • where their work is rewarded and acknowledged

they will end up being productive and happy.

More importantly, they will look forward to coming to work every day and being part of an amazing workplace where they are enthusiastic and dedicated. Or another way of saying it—is motivated.

Laura Spawn

Laura Spawn

CEO and Co-Founder, Virtual Vocations

Motivating employees is an essential yet intimidating part of business leadership. 

It can be challenging to develop strategies that simultaneously inspire employees to perform at their highest levels and nurture strong company culture to bolster employee retention and future recruitment. 

In my 15 years as a CEO, three clear employee motivation strategies have emerged as foundational tenets I use within my business and recommend to other leaders to drive employee motivation and an overall growth mindset.

Offer remote, flexible job options

Flexibility is a top employee motivator. As the CEO of a 100% virtual business, we already motivate our team by providing a fully remote work environment. 

This tracks current career trends documented in a survey of more than 500 professionals we completed in March 2022. Ninety-four percent (94%) of workers prefer a job that does not require them to leave home for work. 

Respondents cited money and time saved by not commuting, increased productivity while working remotely, and improved personal health and well-being as the primary reasons for desiring remote jobs above all other work styles.

Implement a results-oriented work model

In addition to an entirely virtual work environment, we prioritize flexibility and autonomy through a results-oriented work model. We give our team the freedom to do their jobs on their own terms, so long as they meet their deliverables and perform quality work. 

Our managers supervised employees, and contractors all have access to remote communication and project management platforms, including Slack and Basecamp. 

These programs enable our team members to: 

  • message one another
  • share files
  • create schedules
  • provide project updates synchronously and asynchronously

Allowing them maximum opportunities to work when they feel most motivated.

Recruit candidates that demonstrate self-motivation

This motivation strategy may seem obvious, but it can be easily overlooked during the hiring process. Self-motivated employees are already driven to meet their goals. They also tend to be more self-aware and keen to recognize what works and doesn’t. 

When vetting applicants, search resumes and cover letters for examples of when candidates were: 

  • proactive
  • hard-working
  • responsible
  • calculated risk-takers

all hallmarks of self-motivation. 

But don’t forget that self-motivation can also be developed as a skill. 

Building toward small goals, encouraging progress tracking, and improving time management are all tactics business leaders can facilitate within their teams to promote and develop self-motivation skills.

Max Wesman

Max Wesman

COO, GoodHire

Remind your employees of how far they’ve come

After working on a project for several months or even years, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. 

You might forget what exactly you’re working toward, what the landscape might look like when that project finishes, or even why you’re doing it in the first place. 

Even the most productive workers are prone to burnout if they feel they’re not progressing as they should. Though focusing on the future is important, there’s no harm in occasionally looking back.

To keep your employees motivated, remind them of their progress. Talk about:

  • the teachable moments, 
  • the improvements made along the way, 
  • and the wins—no matter how small. 

It’s crucial to have moments like these, where you get together as a team and celebrate your hard work. It keeps the team focused on the end goal when times get tough and allows them to reflect on the many adversities they overcame along the way. 

Call attention to the amazing things your employees are capable of, and good things tend to follow.

Logan Mallory

Logan Mallory

Vice President, Motivosity

Be generous with your praise and make sure it’s tailored to each employee

One of the best ways to motivate employees is to provide frequent and meaningful recognition. All employees want to be recognized for their work, so be generous with your praise and make sure it’s tailored to each employee. 

When recognition happens frequently, it gives employees a more positive outlook on their work and the workplace itself, which helps keep engagement and motivation levels high.

Another way to motivate employees is to tailor your leadership approach to each employee. Your employees are all individuals with different preferences and working styles. 

Get to know them on a personal level to understand their working style and preferences better so you can tailor your leadership approach and watch their motivation levels soar.

Greg Frisbee

Greg Frisbee

Speaker and Creativity Coach | Author, “Sheep Theory

Make everyone feel like they are part and an asset of a team

I think it depends on the kind of motivation you are seeking. To motivate employees to accomplish a specific task, try to make everyone feel like they are part of a team and that their thoughts as an asset to the project.

We all have our own way of thinking, and everyone wants to feel like they are valued.

That said, I think it is also essential to have a set goal in mind, not just “how can I motivate my employees” or “how can we be more productive.”

I think there need to be obtainable goals of what you want to achieve. Some suggestions are:

  • Maybe have a weekly brainstorming session in the office, make it fun, and buy lunch or coffee for everyone.
  • Ask questions, discuss goals, and develop new ideas or directions to head on a project.
  • Play a creativity game or other team-building exercises to help build camaraderie, a sense of working together, and the individual mindset is valued and recognized.

Glen Bhimani

Glen Bhimani

CEO and Founder, BPS Security

Motivation starts with understanding

If you want to motivate your employees, you must understand them and the relationship between an employee and an employer, a symbiotic relationship. 

While they need you to pay and take care of them, your company also requires them to function. 

For example, an employee that only receives a late paycheck is not going to be inclined to look after the person paying them. After all, the check is late, and there is nothing else being done to show appreciation for the employee’s work. 

Take care of your employees

To create motivation to look after the company, you must first take care of the basics for your employees. 

  • Paychecks need to be on time
  • Benefits need to give them space to worry less about miscellaneous aspects of life 

An employee who’s constantly worrying about what would happen if they need a trip to the ER and how they would pay for it is going to be less likely to even have the brain space to think about how to care for their employer, much less the motivation to do it. 

To cultivate strong employee loyalty bonds, you must first provide the basics they need—consistent payments and the minimum benefits (healthcare, dental, etc.). 

If you truly want to motivate your employees to do well for your company, find additional benefits to add on, like: 

  • paid maternal leave, 
  • access to legal experts, 
  • and earnable bonuses. 

But remember, unusual benefits won’t matter if they don’t have the basics covered. The best way to motivate your employees is to take care of them, so they have the space and capacity to take care of you.

In reality, we’re all driven by the same fundamental factors, and if you get this, you’ll be in a better position to keep your staff as motivated as possible. 

Here are some of my valuable tips for you:

Give people a reason to adore their profession

Employees will work harder if they see their career as having meaning beyond the financial rewards. Give your staff a purpose beyond merely earning a decent wage.

Make sure your staff knows about the resources and help you can provide. By providing them with avenues for professional development both inside their current role and the firm, you can help them remember that working for you is more than merely punching a clock.

Keep your door open and your ears attuned

It’s not hard to make your employees feel appreciated if they know they can speak out and have their voices heard. 

Several CEOs say they are accessible, but in reality, they aren’t interested in hearing from employees. This may lead to frustration and even bitterness among workers who believe their concerns have been disregarded.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the day and forget the value of slowing down to listen. It’s essential to keep in mind that you’ll have an easier time with your own tasks if everyone else is putting up their full effort. 

Productivity and morale will rise if workers feel their opinions are being taken seriously.

David Farkas

David Farkas

CEO and Founder, The Upper Ranks

So, we made some great hires. We must now ensure their continued presence. Money and perks are considered quite low on the list of what motivates people to work. 

Ultimately, the efficiency of our business increases when our personnel is inspired to do their best. 

Maintain a clean environment with cutting-edge tools

Make the company a nice place to work. Nobody likes to wait about for a long time in a dull, uninteresting place. 

The quality of one’s working environment is greatly enhanced by the presence of a nice design, enough lighting, practical amenities, and a sense of humor. 

Being a supportive manager

Bad management is a common cause of employee turnover, which may seem like stating the obvious. 

The cornerstones of this relationship include qualities like: 

  • trustworthiness, 
  • openness, 
  • and mutual understanding. 

However, we still have room for improvement as a leader and mentors.

If we give our customers a reason to stick with our company, they will. Therefore, it is also worthwhile to institute an incentive program if we care about maintaining staff motivation.

When workers know what’s happening behind the scenes, they take more pride in their work. Make it a habit to provide them with this information regularly. 

Access to this information not only makes workers feel like they matter to the company but also highlights areas for growth.

Provide accommodating working hours

Technology has altered the nature of labor and the way businesses are run. 

In particular, since the previous year, telecommuting has been the standard. It is then crucial that our company accommodates this uptick if it is to continue attracting and retaining talented workers. 

If we want to attract top talent, we should aim to establish a variety of schedule choices, such as a work-from-home policy or flexi-time.

Lauren Cook-McKay

Lauren Cook-McKay

Director of Marketing and Content, Divorce Answers

Reinforce motivating behavior by acknowledging it

Similar to many relationships between human beings, acknowledging positive actions will help turn that behavior into a habit. 

In the same way, show employees appreciation for output that has been turned over earlier than the deadline. Or when they do tasks that are above and beyond their role or position in the company. 

Motivation increases when people recognize your efforts and keep doing it because they feel good, supported, and encouraged.

Be aware of the breaking point of your employees

Understanding and recognizing that employees are not the same will help many managers instill motivation in their team. This requires going the extra mile for most teams by getting to know each other personally to understand what inspires them and their weaknesses. 

In addition, knowing their weaknesses can help you align them with employees’ career and personal goals during performance reviews. 

Related: 40+ Good Questions to Ask During Your Performance Review

This type of collaboration can help managers create an environment where everyone can feel inspired to do better and be more productive. 

Identify what needs they prioritize in the workplace

Following “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” basic needs are important for individuals to be motivated to achieve more in life. 

Related: 10+ Real Life Examples of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Managers can try applying this hierarchy by incorporating employee goals and dreams of what constitutes a good workplace into their strategy to motivate them. 

This means providing them the ample resources to be more productive at work while also developing a sense of teamwork and camaraderie with the rest of their colleagues so they feel they belong.

Blima Ehrentreu

Blima Ehrentreu

Founder and CEO, The Designers Group

Inspire your team by creating an engaging and inclusive environment

Our company plays a role in building the globalized world that everybody lives in, so it is imperative that our team reflects this. 

My mission was to build a team of diverse backgrounds and cultures with passionate, adaptable, and ambitious individuals. Centering this level of diversity creates an engaging and inclusive environment that inspires the team with each new project.

One of the primary ways I motivate my employees is through team-building activities. During our weekly TDG Talks, our staff anonymously votes for one team member to be awarded “TDG Star of The Week.

The nominations are a chance for us to reflect on our past week while spotlighting each team member. 

We also go on field trips related to interior design. TDG Trips is a great way to get to know each other out of the office while learning more about our industry first-hand.

Last month we visited an apartment complex in Brooklyn with thousands of square feet of amenity space that our team was able to enjoy together while finding new design inspiration.

Encourage them to work on projects that excite them

Cultivating a culture of positivity and growth is essential to keep employees motivated. I encourage my designers to work on different projects that excite them. 

Giving your employees autonomy inspires confidence, and I always tell my team that it is ok to fail as long as they view it as an opportunity to learn. As cliche as it may sound, we all learn from our mistakes. Taking risks leads to innovative designs, which keep our clients coming back.

Brian DeChesare

Brian DeChesare

Founder, Breaking Into Wall Street

Pair “stretch projects” alongside relevant development opportunities

Professional development and continuous learning can be incredibly motivating tools only when your team sees tangible results. 

You may remember uttering a “Why am I learning this? I’m never going to use it again” during a few frustrating moments in your least favorite class.

Employees aren’t motivated to learn unless they see how that learning will help their careers. Pair “stretch projects” alongside relevant development opportunities, so they can start applying the skills they’re learning ASAP. 

Applying newly-learned skills helps us: 

  • solidify them in our memories better, 
  • test out their application, 
  • and motivate us to keep growing.

Create personal development plans for your team with two columns labeled “Training Methods” and “Stretch Projects. 

If your employee shows interest in learning a new skill, find ways to apply it to a relevant stretch project they can run. Or, have them choose a stretch project that appeals to them and design their professional development around the skills they’ll need to rock it.

Rachel Reid

Rachel Reid

Founder and CEO, Subtl Beauty

Allow your employees to draw lines between work and personal life 

Prioritize work-life balance. According to recent studies, including one by MIT Sloan—the top reason people give for why they’re leaving their jobs is toxic work culture. 

As an employer, you can combat that by recognizing that while business is important, family and mental health should always be the top priority. 

Allowing your employees to draw lines between work and personal life can mean something simple, like: 

  • not sending them messages outside regular work hours
  • encouraging them to take an unused vacation or personal time 

As the CEO of a fully remote workplace, one thing I do is encourage my team to have off-topic conversations to help recreate the “watercooler” experience of regular office work. 

If you respect your employees’ time away from the office, they are more likely to be motivated when it’s time to work. 

Keith Leaphart, DO/MBA

Keith Leaphart

Founder and CEO, Philanthropi

Resonate and help the causes your employees support

When a CEO selects a cause for a company to support through a run, drive, or automatic payroll deductions, it doesn’t always resonate with the individuals on the team. 

As employers look for new ways to create a positive culture and connections at work (especially in remote and hybrid environments), many are rethinking their CSR programs that have historically employed a top-down approach.

At my company, I have seen companies deploy a new bottom-up approach that enables individual employees to choose their own causes to support. 

I have also seen employers match and even double-match gifts to charitable causes their employees support to create meaning and connection at work. 

If an employee gives $50 to a fund that supports a cause they care about and the employer chips in $50 or $100 on behalf of that employee, it encourages and celebrates that employee’s desire to give back. 

I hope this type of program becomes just as common as a retirement match. 

Moving from a top-down approach to a more democratized system helps create a CSR program that aligns with the broader team rather than just a few executives.

Jason Panzer

Jason Panzer

President, HexClad

Create a sense of community at work

Employees must be motivated by various incentives, including a sense of community at work. 

We use cocktail hours, food tastings, and team-building activities to curate stimulating and challenging activities to keep our employees active and engaged. 

Ultimately, engaging work culture and an involved community keep employees motivated and retained longer than companies uninvolved with their staff.

Brainstorming challenges push our employees to stay on their toes and help our company produce innovative ideas and solutions that help us stay competitive. 

We use team-building exercises to develop new products and solutions to industry challenges and to make incremental improvements to our employees’ overall work experience.

One notable highlight is that we sponsor dinners bringing in top-grade chefs to make personalized, homemade recipes with our cookware. 

Our staff has the opportunity to attend regularly, allowing them to see and taste the end-products of our cookware in action. Use regular opportunities to encourage staff to participate in seeing and tasting the fruits of your product to increase their knowledge and appreciation for their work.

Max Whiteside

Max Whiteside

Community Engagement Team Lead, BarBend

Improve the attractiveness of the workplace

I believe not everyone’s idea of a workplace is a dim, claustrophobic nook with shoddy furnishings. More than half of the workday is spent at the office. Because of this, a well-maintained and well-presented workplace is essential to their health and productivity. 

When you enter a well-designed place, you immediately feel more optimistic about the rest of your day. 

  • If possible, use natural light to brighten your office. 
  • Indoor and relaxation places must be clean and sanitary
  • Maintain the cleanliness of the windows and carpets in your home regularly. 

There is nothing more unprofessional than an overflowing garbage can or a soiled window blind. 

All office equipment and appliances, such as: 

  • computers, 
  • telephones, 
  • fans, 
  • and lights, 

are in working order. 

When shopping for furniture, think creatively and unconventionally. Refurbished models and great furniture offers might help you save money if you are concerned about your finances. 

Decorative pieces such as paintings or sculptures would go well with the furnishings. Purchasing art from local artisans might save money. 

The possibilities are endless when it comes to letting your staff express their creativity in the workplace.

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